Changing Planet

Jane Goodall Celebrates International Day of Peace

Jane Goodall realized early on that we won’t be able to take care of animals and the environment until we’re able to take care of each other. In that spirit, the Jane Goodall Institute is asking us all to make a pledge to cultivate peace in our daily lives throughout the year. Photo by Nicole Glass.

Jane Goodall is famous around the world for her ability essentially to talk to the animals. The key to her legendary status however may be her ability to talk to humans–and the message she delivers. At its heart, that message is simply one of peace.

Now, on the UN International Day of Peace she asks, what will be your pledge for peace this year?

See Jane’s 2017 address to the UN General Assembly:

From Chimp Work to Peace Work

Living with chimpanzees in the wild, Jane grew to know and understand their world, and saw first-hand how greatly endangered they were as a result of human activities such as deforestation for agriculture and charcoal production, and the hunting of chimps for food and the pet trade. (Celebrate 50 years of research at Gombe with the NG Jane Goodall Archives.)

She also realized that people were doing this out of desperation, as a growing population was struggling to find land, food, and other resources for their families. “While they were in that situation,” she says, “how could we even try to save the chimpanzees?”

Her subsequent efforts through the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots, to help these people as well as children around the world to develop their communities in harmony with people, other animals, and the environment, earned her an appointment in 2002 by Kofi Annan as a UN Messenger of Peace.


“At Least One Day

“When I realized  there was an [official United Nations] International Day of Peace,” she says, “which an awful lot of people didn’t know about–I didn’t either–[I thought] maybe one thing I can do is help more people to understand there is at least one day in the world where we hope people will stop fighting physically and symbolize that what we all yearn for is a world without fighting.”

Since 2004, she’s annually named a Roots & Shoots International Day of Peace on the weekend nearest the UN’s date of September 21, and groups in countries around the world have celebrated by constructing Giant Peace Dove Puppets from reused materials and flying the Doves in their communities to symbolize their commitment to peace.

This year, she also held a town hall meeting at American University in Washington, D.C.  Before the official event, we sat and spoke a bit about peace, primates, and practical solutions to conflict.

A young member of a local Roots & Shoots group joins the Day of Peace celebration at American University by cutting out and decorating a paper dove. Photo by Andrew Howley

Lessons From the Chimps

After living among chimps possibly more closely than anyone else in history up to that point, Jane Goodall has an interesting perspective on what we can learn from them regarding physical violence and peaceful resolutions.

“Chimps have a dark side to their nature, just like we do,” she acknowledges, “and they’re capable of a sort of violence, brutality–even a kind of primitive war. But they also show love, compassion and altruism.” When looking at our shared characteristics, we must accept the good and the bad.

When there’s conflict among chimps, especially in captivity, “nobody relaxes until there’s a resolution.” In such a case, “you’ll see the victim of an attack, even though very fearful, approaching the aggressor and reaching out a hand or … crouching and then screaming or whimpering.  Usually in response to that submissive behavior, the aggressor will reach out and gently pat or embrace or kiss. Then the conflict is resolved and harmony returns to the group.”

She’s quick to point out that in these situations, “there’s no right or wrong, because the higher-ranking [chimp] may be in the wrong but he’s the one that can be aggressive.” That makes extrapolation to human conflicts difficult, and raises the uncomfortable point that relinquishing attempts to “get even” or even to get justice, can sometimes be the simplest path to peace.

Jane Goodall has always viewed chimps and humans in relation to the wider landscapes we inhabit. NGS Photo

Don’t Try to Change Minds, Try to Reach Hearts

Another important lesson for conflict resolution Goodall learned from a human politician, not a chimpanzee: “It’s not good making someone lose face.”

“If [the other party in a conflict is] in a high-up position and you want something out of them, you want them to change, you think they’ve done wrong, (or maybe they have)–don’t try to solve the situation by a direct confrontation where either they win, or you win and they lose face. That’s not going to work.”

Or as Buck Brannaman, the Horse Whisperer told NatGeo NewsWatch a few months ago, “in life you might have an idea that you think is a great idea, but if you just try to cram it down someone’s throat, or you try to impose your will on them, it just doesn’t generally pan out–and it sure as hell doesn’t work with horses.

So what’s the best way to approach someone with whom you or your group or your country is in conflict? “My mother taught me to listen to them,” says Jane. “Hear what they have to say and think about it … It may make you think a little differently.

“In other words, don’t have blinkers on. Don’t approach somebody with ‘I’m right, you’re wrong.’ Don’t point fingers. And I think really importantly, don’t try and change their minds, try and reach the heart.” For Jane Goodall, the best way to do that is through stories. Communication is what she feels is her true gift.


Make a Difference Every Day

Later during the town hall meeting, Dr. Goodall tackled the question of how one person can make a difference in a single day.

“We all come into this life with certain gifts, in addition to our life” she said. “Certain ways in which we can contribute, excel, change the world around us … When you actually think about it, you can’t live through a day without making some kind of impact.

“We have a choice: what kind of impact is that going to be? How will we use the gift of our lives each day? … We can choose. We can choose what we buy, what we wear–at the least we can choose how we interact with people or animals or the environment.”

These small changes may at first seem ineffective and people might complain “What can I do in my one little day?”

“But it’s not just me and my one little day,” she responds. “It’s a growing number of people around the world.” How might you play your part?

Jane Goodall’s spirit of fun and camaraderie with everyone she meets came out particularly clearly when I suggested we recreate the famous “Jane and Chimp Knuckle-Touch” photo and she played her part joyfully. Photo by Nicole Glass.

[Updated 9/21/2017]


Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. He is currently beginning a new role as communications director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish.Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010.He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history.
  • […] Jane Goodall is famous around the world for her ability essentially to talk to the animals. The key to her legendary status however may be her ability to talk to humans–and the message she delivers. At its heart, that message is simply one of … read full article… […]

  • Helen

    Here is a beautiful video honoring the International Day of Peace with the words of St. Francis of Asssi :

  • Peter Waller

    What can we do when it is out of the common persons hands, protest to the MPs? Locally I think we can help wildlife, as for war well what can we do, it seems to be human nature to fight one another, why I don’t know.

  • […] Jane Goodall Celebrates International Day of Peace Posted on 2011-09-21 16:16 Jane Goodall realized early on that we won't be able to take care of animals and the environment until we're able to take care of each other. In that spirit, the Jane Goodall Institute is asking us all to make a pledge to cultivate peace in our daily lives throughout the year.… […]

  • Betty Coker

    Reason For Hope is my favorite book to read..truely inspirational. I love your work Jane Goodall…bless you!

  • Barbie

    Yes, Peter, I agree with you that it does seem the “common man” cannot really effect change. But I believe it happens one person at a time.Setting a good example, like Jane, is a fine way to start!

  • Richard Getty

    Peter, rememebr that 70’s song…”war, huh!, what is it good for,,,absolutely nothing!” If only that were true, Historically, for chimps and humans, fighting/war has obtained resources, which either directly or indirectly statistically(historically, when these behaviors evolved) increases reproductive fitness. All other things being equal, a ferrari gets more dates than a moped…this is commmon throuout the animal kingdom. One female salander species even licks the poop of the males to seee how good their territory is! We must learn how and why we got to where we are to change what we will become.

  • Nargiz

    Very nice ,thanks for all your work.

  • Shawn Sweeney

    If you are interested in more information about Roots & Shoots visit,, and if you’d learn more about how to create peace through leading a Roots & Shoots group, check out this upcoming training in New Orleans:

  • Shahram Heydarian

    Someone who understands the value of peace, the war has seen.
    I want that cooperation with the Association strives for peace.
    The word peace is the perfect word.

  • Suzan

    The recognition of the state of Palestine is a positive step toward peace in none violent way to liberate the occupied lands; please support!

  • deonel beto

    im with you!!!!!!!!!!

  • Monica Willard

    Thank you Jane. You are a fabulous Messenger of Peace !
    You are an inspiration in all your work — with animals, with peace and for peace. I love this campaign. The Roots and Shoots organization has done an ourstanding job in educational and motivating youth activites, including the expansion of International Day of Peace participation.

  • Mukesh Kataria

    This message is simply one of peace arround the world, also we must start to take some small steps for our world, then only the feature our new generation will be safe.

  • Kanara lakhan


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